If there’s one thing that particularly annoys the French, it’s failure to win their own sporting events.
Take the Tour de France, for example. The fact that a home-grown cyclist hasn’t triumphed in the world’s greatest bike race since 1985 has the entire population snapping its baguettes in disgust.
And there would be more than a Gallic shrug should you point out that an all-French team hasn’t won the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1980.
So it is with the French Open. Okay, Mary Pierce won the women’s title in 2000, but she is a citizen of USA and Canada, as well as France.
In the men’s event you have to look all the way back to Yannick Noah in 1985. Quelle honte!
Do Frenchmen not have it in them, then, to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires? After all, there’s no shortage of proficient French players. Currently there are 13 of them within the ATP top 100 rankings.
While you could hardly expect Benoit Paire (ranked 63 in the world), Stephane Robert (76) or Adrian Mannarino (96) to reach the latter stages of the tournament, there’s no reason why some of the higher-ranked players shouldn’t shine. But can they realistically go all the way?
Gilles Simon - 600.00
Gilles Simon knows his way round a clay court. He’s won six titles on the red stuff since he turned pro in 2002, and he’s twice reached the fourth round at the French Open. (available at a lowly 600.00 to win this year.)
He has amazing stamina and is quite happy to grind out long matches. In the last two years at Paris’s Grand Slam he has featured in no less than five five-set matches.
But if he’s going to give the top boys a run for their Euro he must ramp up his self-belief; give himself more gravitas on the court.
Gael Monfils - 400.00
Next up is Gael Monfils (with odds of 400.00 to win). This Parisian’s problem is that he’s a show-off who seems to care more about entertaining the home crowd that actually grinding out a victory.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a joy to watch his NBA-style leaps at the net, his about-turn smashes, the way he slides across the court like it’s ice not brick dust.
When you see his 6ft 4in frame splayed like a giraffe drinking from a waterhole, you have to marvel at his agility.
But it ain’t gonna win him matches. He must stop being the showman and start battering the opponent.
Richard Gasquet - 500.00
Richard Gasquet’s problem is perhaps a psychological one. (He is at 500.00 to win.) Like Simon, he’s never been past the fourth round in Paris, and often freezes up in front of his home crowd. The pressure to win the French Open obviously weighs too heavily on his mind.
In any case, he’s been off games since March with a back injury and may not even get to the start line.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 75.00
Which leaves Jo-Wilfried Tsonga – surely France’s greatest champion hope at the French Open. He is joint 8th favourite to win overall with odds of 75.00.
Although the big man has been dining out on his 2008 runner-up trophy at the Australian Open for the last six years, he definitely possesses the firepower to secure a Grand Slam. He reached the semi-finals last year where he came unstuck against David Ferrer.
Yet, of all his 10 ATP titles, none have been on clay. If he does win a Grand Slam it will surely never be in Paris.
Unfortunately for the French, they are going to have to continue waiting for their male champion. Listen carefully and already you’ll hear the angry crack of snapping baguettes.
Bet on the French Open winner now!